I had a quick chance to take a look at the renderings and photographs of the new Washington ballpark over at JDLand. I'd seen some of these renderings before, but it's nice to get a little bit of context.
It's also very cool to see what it looks like when a ballpark starts to emerge from barren land (check out the construction photos). If they ever start building our park, you'll see that type of documentation here.
Site plan for the new Nationals ballpark, with the size of the Rapid Park site overlaid
But I have to agree to a certain extent with John's comment below about the looks of this ballpark. I wouldn't exactly call it "ugly", but it will probably never be taken for "soaring architecture" either. In fact, I'm struck by it's blandness and utter lack of personality. It's a good thing that they're planning to install cherry trees, because without them, this building could only inspire yawns.
It has a very massive feel, and part of that is because it's being built on a site over twice as large (20 1/5 acres) as the Rapid Park site the Twins hope to use (see image)! That means there's lots of room to stretch out and build gigantic staircases, observation towers (which will presumably offer observation of only the passing traffic outside the park), and even a full office complex. This is one very large site on which will be built one very large ballpark.
In terms of design, it appears to have almost no facade -- at least no unifying theme around the outside (or the inside for that matter). The elevation diagrams show a building which reveals its skeleton (not necessarily a bad thing), and doesn't really strive to look like anything.
I know that architectural significance was discussed and eventually required when the financing for the park was passed, but that appears to have slipped by the wayside. There is nothing significant here, and almost nothing one might call "architecture". It appears to be pure engineering.
Of course, in that respect it would follow on the history of ballparks in Washington. Griffith Stadium looked like it was put together from a box of spare ballpark parts. (We should also acknowledge that the facade our own beloved Metropolitan Stadium was essentially some sprinklings of colored brick barely concealing rusty iron). I did notice that there are two roof heights, something which may be a nod to old Griffith Stadium.
Part of my dislike is the low and very squat profile. There are no soaring light standards, and only muted vertical lines of any kind. Ballparks, seen from the side, are all essentially short and wide buildings, but adding vertical components (usually having to do with the circulation of people to the various levels) can really make a difference in the overall character of a stadium.
A memorable example of such a detail is the tower built into Wrigley Field in LA. That park also featured flags along to outside perimeter, something you may notice if you look closely at some of the Washington drawings. Unfortunately, those little flags get completely lost in the massive bulk of the Nationals new park, where they really added a touch of flair in California. I think the Washington park really cries out for some unique architectural element to make it distinctive.
So, while the park looks functional, and any new ballpark is an exciting place, there's nothing here which really makes me want to say, "Wow!"
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Looking up toward Sixth Street.
The Puckett atrium fireplace is just barely visible at the far left.
The equivalent spot on the model.
The Northstar station at night
A view straight on of the Pro Shop area and ticket windows (just barely visible). The piers you see beneath the plaza are already almost completed (see final photo).
The glare problem.
These stairs will go up to the centerfield pavilion.
World Series trophies on display at left
This view is from the roof of a warehouse which stood where the A ramp is today. The HERC is now located where the tracks turned north (toward the top).
Many people will approace the park from this direction and it's a pretty great first glimpse. It features all the design elements in modestly condensed form, and still manages to look like a ballpark (instead of something else).
Doors directly to the concourse, and a view of the stands beyond
A slightly different elevation drawing, again viewed from Fifth Street, with some labels. (Click to enlarge.)
Looking back toward the ballpark from Third Avenue and Fifth Street. Again, the track configuration is now clearly visible.
Reverse view, now looking down Sixth toward the park. The Met Stadium flag pole will be right there!
Don Swanson, left, in-coming commander of the Richfield American Legion, and Joe Kennedy, right, out-going commander, are pictured with the Legion's new flag pole, which once stood at old Metropolitan Stadium. (Click to enlarge.)
I took this picture from the Overlook at great personal risk, because everything Thome was hitting was landing out that direction.
Sharing and Caring Hands, as viewed from the ballpark site about a block away. Note transaction in progress in the shadows.
A trailer village has sprung up to the south.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)
The east wall of the building looks like it will be the first part completed. These are probably supports for the plaza, and they hug the very edge of the site.
Click to see the full-size image.
Two concepts here remain in the final design. First is the oddly-shaped pavilion in center. Second is the section just above the right field fence. In the current design this section will hang over the field by a few feet. The original doesn't do that, but you can see that the concept goes way back in the planning.
A sign that your mall is all but dead: roped off escalators. (This is at about 4:00 PM on a weekday.)
More flowers, more pennants.
Limestone still dominates the Seventh Street walkway from a pedestrian point of view. But brick take over as you move upward -- a concession to cost, no doubt.
Wind veil install from across Seventh
From about two blocks away you can finally get an idea of what it looks like. Just to my left (but out of view) was a valet parking stand where a limo was idling.